Nothing deflates your spirit on a fun ride faster than a deflated tire! But it is an unfortunate reality of life on two wheels, so we give you some advice on how to best prevent flat tires, along with some useful tips to take the pain out of dealing with them if you get one.
No matter where you ride, whether it’s on long-distance off-road adventures or short weekend blasts on the back roads, one thing no rider ever wants to deal with is getting a flat tire. But unfortunately, they’re a part of life on two wheels – ride long enough, and eventually you’ll find yourself on the side of the road with one too.
Good news is, there are a few ways you can prevent them, and a bunch more ways to deal with them in the easiest way possible if you do get one. We put our heads together at the BikeBandit headquarters and put together all these helpful tips, just for you – check them out here!
BikeBandit’s resident world traveler, Pat Harris, changing a tire on the roadside in India. After circumnavigating the globe for 2 years by motorcycle this is something he got pretty good at!
Tips To Prevent Flat Tires
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound-per-square-inch of air.” That’s how the old saying goes right? Well maybe not, but it does in the motorcycle world, because the best way to avoid having to deal with a flat tire is doing what you can to prevent getting one in the first place. Here’s how:
Check The PSI Of Your Tires Regularly
The enemy of tires is underinflation. Overinflated and underinflated tires are both bad news, but underinflation is worse because it has more negative effects (like increase the chances of a pinch flat), and because it’s much more common. Tires don’t gain air pressure from neglect, but they do lose air pressure over time on their own – so if you’re not monitoring your PSI on a regular basis, you’re already putting yourself at risk. (Check out this article for the complete 411 on motorcycle tire pressure.)
Avoid Riding Where Debris Gathers
The most common causes of a flat tire are failing valve stems, and punctures from pieces of road debris. You don’t have control over either happening, but you can reduce the chances of a puncture by staying out of the places in the road where the nasty stuff tends to collect – the shoulder of the road, in the very center of lanes, in between lanes, and in the center of intersections (where the tires of all the four wheels vehicles tend to push it.) Look carefully at these areas next time you’re on a ride, and you’ll find bolts, wires, pieces of glass, and all kinds of other fun stuff just waiting to take a tasty bite out of your tires – so stay outta there!
Inspect Your Tires Before Each Ride
Give your tires a once over before going on any ride, to find potential problems before they happen on a ride and leave you stranded. It often happens that riders will collect a piece of debris that punctures their tires in a parking lot or someplace, but don’t notice until they are well down the road. Checking your tires out before setting out will prevent this!
If You Do Get A Flat…
First Of All, Don’t Panic!
A “blowout” is very rare occurrence on a bike. More than likely, a puncture or tear will slowly let air out, over the course of at least several minutes, and you will notice your handling become sluggish and the bike become less responsive.
Pull over to a safe area (off the roadside) and inspect. If you can tell which tire is flat, come smoothly to a stop using the brake of the good tire. Do this ASAP – riding any longer than necessary could damage a tire even more, ruining the possibility of a repair, and could even damage rim, which will cost a lot more to fix.
Find a Safe Place to Work
While you still have a little air in your tire, get your bike to a safe spot with some room to work. Even though these are called “roadside repairs,” the actual side of the road is NOT a safe place to work by any means. Pull into a parking lot or side street if you can, under some shade if possible. Make your work area somewhere safe and comfortable, you may be there a while!
Flat tires are a bummer…but don’t let them put you in more danger by planting yourself on the side of the road. People die there! Find a safe spot away from traffic to do the job.
Flat Fixing Tips
Now comes the “fun” part – fixing your flat tire. This is a PITA job no matter how you look at it, but the difference between it being a manageable headache and an absolute nightmare depends entirely on your level of preparation. Here are a few helpful tips we’ve found that have saved our butts a time or two when we caught a flat out in the wild.
Flat Tubeless Tire? Plug It!
One of the best parts about running tubeless tires is that when they go flat, you can plug them; this is generally an easy and very reliable fix, but more importantly, it doesn’t require you to remove the wheel or tire.
If you’re riding on tubeless tires, get yourself a portable plug kit to keep in your gear. These kits are easy to use, but to help you visual learners, here’s one of our Garage Videos with Rob demonstrating the entire process:
A few plug kits we recommend and have had great experiences with are the BikeMaster Tire and Tube Flat Repair Kit, the Genuine Innovations Street Tire Repair and Inflation Deluxe KitT, and the Stop & Go Pocket Tire Plugger.
One note about plugged tires: plugs work really well, but don’t forget that the integrity of your tire has been compromised and you should replace your tire as soon as possible. We’ve had great luck with plugs in the past, and some of us may or may not have put several hundred miles on plugged tires when necessary…but we don’t recommend doing that!
No Matter What You Run, Always Carry A Spare Tube
We know what you’re thinking – if you run tubeless tires, why carry a tube? This is why: if you happen to puncture or tear a tubeless tire and are unable to patch it, you can always put a tube inside it to get enough air pressure into the tire to get home.
This is universally not recommended by tire manufacturers, because the friction created by the tube will create excess heat in the carcass, which lowers both your speed and load ratings. But we doubt you care about those too much when stranded on the side of the road with a flat. So unless your tire manufacturer is going to send a helicopter out to fix your flat, you can definitely use this as a last resort to get enough tire pressure to limp home.
Or, you could just carry an entire spare tire around everywhere you go. Hey, to each his own.
If You Run Tubed Tires – Carry a Patch Kit and a Spare Tube
The bad news about getting a flat on a tubeless tire is that you’re going to have to pull the wheel and tire off to fix it – but the good news is, the damage is usually easier to repair. We recommend carrying a patch kit and a spare tube, so you have a backup option in case you get another flat (and this does happen – we’ve even seen people puncture a new tube while installing it!)
Take Tiny Bites With Your Tire Irons
Flat tires are frustrating, and we know the only thing you want to do is muscle that thing back together and get the heck back on the road. But when prying on your tires with tire irons, be gentle, and take tiny bites. Going slowly will require less effort, but more importantly, it reduces the chances that you’ll damage the tube while installing it (and if you think you’re frustrated now, wait until you air up your new tube only to find that it won’t hold air either.)
Center Stands Make Life a Whole Lot Easier
If you have a bike with a center stand and get a flat, you’re in luck – center stands make the whole job a lot easier. If you don’t though, you can also create a makeshift stand out of things you find (BikeBandit founder Ken Wahlster once made a stand to fix a flat on a ride in Baja out of just a stack of rocks.) Remember, you only need to get it just high enough to pull the tire off – a half inch off the ground is enough to get the job done.
Even a stack of rocks will work to change a tire in a pinch! As long as it holds the bike up just enough to pull the tire off, it will do the job.
Airing Back Up
When airing back up, you have three options: CO2 cartidges, a manual pump, or an air compressor. Here are the pros and cons of each:
- CO2: this is generally the preferred option due to their small size, ease of use, and efficiency. They’re tiny, so we recommend to carry twice what you’ll think you need – you never know when you might get a second flat on a ride!
- Manual Pump: A good old manual pump is the most reliable option, and still fairly light to pack, but it will be extremely exhausting using one to fill a motorcycle tire. We recommend having one as a backup, but not as your primary option.
- Air Compressor: By far the best option, but they are heavy and take up a lot more space. As long as your bike has power, you’ll have air (and if your bike isn’t running and you have a flat, you have much bigger problems to worry about anyway.) If you’re on a group ride, definitely make sure someone is packing one of these lifesavers – if your’e riding solo, consider one if you have the cargo room.
And Of Course…
Get some roadside assistance! This is no good if you’re adventuring far off the beaten path, but it’s a lifesaver when you are caught stranded on the road for any reason (not just flat tires.) It’s cheap enough that anyone can afford it, and accessible through many organizations like the AMA, AAA, HOG, and even a number of insurance companies. Even if you’re a hardcore dual-sport or ADV guy who can swap a tire with your eyes closed, you may want to preserve your tire survival gear for when you’re out in the wild, and make life easier on yourself with roadside assistance when you can use it.
What flat tire tricks do you have that we didn’t cover?